Republic of Djibouti

President: Ismail Omar Guelleh (1999)

Prime Minister: Abdoulkader Kamil Mohamed (2013)

Land area: 8,486 sq mi (21,979 sq km); total area: 8,880 sq mi (23,000 sq km)

Population (2012 est.): 774,389 (growth rate: 2.29%); birth rate: 15.6/1000; infant mortality rate: 53.53/1000; life expectancy: 61.57; density per sq km: 22

Capital (2009 est.): Djibouti, 567,000

Monetary unit: Djibouti franc

National name: Jumhouriyya Djibouti

Current government officials

Languages: French and Arabic (both official), Somali, Afar

Ethnicity/race: Somali 60%, Afar 35%, other 5% (includes French, Arab, Ethiopian, and Italian)

National Holiday: Independence Day, June 27

Religions: Islam 94%, Christian 6%

Literacy rate: 67.9% (2011 est.)

Economic summary: GDP/PPP (2011 est.): $2.244 billion; per capita $2,600. Real growth rate: n.a.%. Inflation: 7%. Unemployment: 59% in urban areas, 83% in rural areas (2011 est.). Arable land: 0.04%. Agriculture: fruits, vegetables; goats, sheep, camels, animal hides. Labor force: 351,700 (2011). Industries: construction, agricultural processing, salt. Natural resources: geothermal areas, gold, clay, granite, limestone, marble, salt, diatomite, gypsum, pumice, petroleum. Exports: 80.4 million (2011 est.): reexports, hides and skins, coffee (in transit). Imports: $471.3 million f.o.b. (2011): foods, beverages, transport equipment, chemicals, petroleum products. Major trading partners: Somalia, Yemen, Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia, India, China (2006).

Communications: Telephones: main lines in use: 18,500 (2011); mobile cellular: 165,600 (2011). Radio broadcast stations: AM 1, FM 2, shortwave 0 (2001). Television broadcast stations: 1 (2002). Internet hosts: 209 (2011). Internet users: 25,900 (2011).

Transportation: Railways: total: 100 km (Djibouti segment of the Addis Ababa-Djibouti railroad) (2011). Highways: total: 3,065 km; (2011 est.). Waterways: none. Ports and harbors: Djibouti. Airports: 13 (2011).

International disputes: Djibouti maintains economic ties and border accords with "Somaliland" leadership while maintaining some political ties to various factions in Somalia; although most of the 26,000 Somali refugees in Djibouti who fled civil unrest in the early 1990s have returned, several thousand still await repatriation in UNHCR camps.

Major sources and definitions

Flag of Djibouti

Geography | Government | History


Djibouti lies in northeast Africa on the Gulf of Aden at the southern entrance to the Red Sea. It borders Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Somalia. The country, the size of Massachusetts, is mainly a stony desert, with scattered plateaus and highlands.


Republic with a unicameral legislature.


Ablé immigrants from Arabia migrated to what is now Djibouti in about the 3rd century B.C. Their descendants are the Afars, one of the two main ethnic groups that make up Djibouti today. Somali Issas arrived thereafter. Islam came to the region in 825.

Djibouti was acquired by France between 1843 and 1886 through treaties with the Somali sultans. Small, arid, and sparsely populated, it is important chiefly because of the capital city's port, the terminal of the Djibouti–Addis Ababa railway that carries 60% of Ethiopia's foreign trade. Originally known as French Somaliland, the colony voted in 1958 and 1967 to remain under French rule. It was renamed the Territory of the Afars and Issas in 1967 and took the name of its capital city on June 27, 1977, when France transferred sovereignty to the new independent nation of Djibouti. On Sept. 4, 1992, voters approved in referendum a new multiparty constitution. In 1991, conflict between the Afars and the Issa-dominated government erupted and the continued warfare has ravaged the country.

The dictatorial president, Hassan Gouled Aptidon, who had run the country since its independence, finally stepped aside in 1999, and Ismail Omar Guelleh was elected president. In March 2000, the main Afars rebel group signed a peace accord with the government. The fighting, severe drought, and the presence of tens of thousands of refugees from its war-torn neighbors, Ethiopia and Somalia, have severely strained Djibouti's agricultural capacity.

The Vital Port of Djibouti Receives International Aid

In April 2000, experts estimated some 150,000 people, or more than one-quarter of the population, needed food aid. The UN agreed to spend $2.7 million to increase the city of Djibouti's port facilities since it is a crucial regional grain terminus. In 2002, Djibouti became a key U.S. military base used to combat terrorism. In 2005, President Guelleh, running unopposed, was reelected.

In parliamentary elections in Feb. 2008, which were boycotted by the three main opposition parties, the ruling Union for the Presidential Majority won 94.1% of the vote, taking all 65 seats.

In 2010, Parliament approved a constitutional amendment that allowed the president to run for a third term. However, it reduced the term from six years to five. Presidential elections in 2011 saw incumbent Ismail Omar Guelleh win a third term with 80.6% of the vote and a turnout of 69.7%. The opposition participated in parliamentary elections in Feb. 2013, the first time since its boycott in 2003. However, the governing Union for the Presidential Majority won 49 out of 65 seats, and the opposition denounced the results.

See also Encyclopedia: Djibouti
U.S. State Dept. Country Notes: Djibouti
Ministry of the Economy, Finances, and Privitization Planning (in French).

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